Laying down Giant at the Lost gardens of Heligan, Cornwall, England

©Simon Bond/Shutterstock

Lost Gardens of Heligan

Top choice in South Cornwall

This is Cornwall's real-life secret garden. Formerly the family estate of the Tremaynes, Heligan's magnificent 19th-century gardens fell into disrepair following WWI, but have been splendidly restored by the brains behind the Eden Project, Tim Smit, and a huge army of gardeners and volunteers. It's a horticultural wonderland: you'll encounter formal lawns, working kitchen gardens, fruit-filled greenhouses, a secret grotto and a 25m-high rhododendron, plus a lost-world Jungle Valley of ferns, palms and tropical blooms.

It's also dotted with artworks – look out for the famous sleeping woman, made out of earth and grass – and a haven for wildlife. If you're lucky you might spot a kingfisher or even an elusive barn owl.

Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a lead at all times.

Heligan is 7 miles from St Austell. The only bus service is provided by Travel Cornwall (; bus 471 travels from St Austell (30 minutes, three daily Monday to Saturday) en route to Mevagissey.

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